Fundamental Drivers of the Cost and Price of Operating Reserves

Marissa Hummon

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Operating reserves impose a cost on the electric power system by forcing system operators to keep partially loaded spinning generators available for responding to system contingencies variable demand. In many regions of the United States, thermal power plants provide a large fraction of the operating reserve requirement. Alternative sources of operating reserves, such as demand response andenergy storage, may provide more efficient sources of these reserves. However, to estimate the potential value of these services, the cost of reserve services under various grid conditions must first be established. This analysis used a commercial grid simulation tool to evaluate the cost and price of several operating reserve services, including spinning contingency reserves and upwardregulation reserves. These reserve products were evaluated in a utility system in the western United States, considering different system flexibilities, renewable energy penetration, and other sensitivities. The analysis demonstrates that the price of operating reserves depend highly on many assumptions regarding the operational flexibility of the generation fleet, including ramp rates and thefraction of fleet available to provide reserves.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages57
StatePublished - 2013

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-58491


  • costs
  • electric power systems
  • flexibility
  • modeling
  • operating reserves
  • part-load
  • price
  • reserve services
  • United States
  • Western


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